This fall, the Faulconer Gallery will be presenting an exhibition made with and about the community of Grinnell. Entitled Culturing Community: Projects about Place, the show tries to get at aspects of our little town that are not apparent on the surface. The artists involved use art and culture as a means to inspire participation by those who might not otherwise see themselves as a part of the constituency around the gallery. The show includes projects that focus on a cemetery, on intermodal shipping containers (those huge steel boxes that ride on truck beds and train cars), on collections large and small in Grinnell, and on the work people do here every day. Out of such disparate material, artists are weaving installations and art objects for the exhibition. On at least an idealistic level, then, culture helps cultivate community itself.
I’m currently up to my eyeballs in details about the show. Though the opening is still two months away, we are facing a number of publication deadlines in the next few weeks. Chief among the deadlines on my plate is the introductory essay for the show, which is my creation so it rests on me to make a cogent explanation of what the heck the show is about.
As a result, I have been thinking much about community and the role art plays in community. It is thus perhaps fortuitous, and certainly appropriate, that the Grinnell Arts Center and Gallery (GACG) officially opens its doors tonight for the first time. Housed in the Stewart Library building, vacated when the library moved to its grand new quarters, the GACG is the home of the Grinnell Area Arts Council and all that they oversee. I’ve been involved with the Arts Council for many of my 11 years in Grinnell and have witnessed the organization’s transformation from a small board that met in various basement meeting rooms to dole out modest sums of cash into an institution with a building (the GACG), an executive director, and a rich area of arts programs.
Today the Arts Council oversees after school programs in visual arts, foreign language, and creative writing, courses in arts and languages for adults, a bagpipe band, a community theatre, a summer artist residency program, an art gallery, a summer music series, and a minigrant program. Each program has responded to a community need and has been nursed along by the passion of a few individuals. In Grinnell, we are fortunate that the vision one person has can take wing and become a part of the cultural life of everyone.
The opening of the Arts Center in downtown is a symbolic statement that arts are at the heart of our community. We have literally brought the arts council in from the fringes of town, where they have thrived for years on the Lacina farm, but where they remained somewhat inaccessible to all. Now they will have a home next to the post office, behind the City offices, and across the street from the coffee house and the chamber of commerce. They are available to everyone and are working hard to attract a wider constituency with everything they do. For more visit www.grinnellarts.org
I am very proud of the Arts Council for seeing through a major transformation. It takes a leap of faith to move from a group of arts enthusiasts to managing a facility and staff. But it speaks volumes about the willingness of Grinnellians to embrace new ideas and to experience them first hand. We salute the culturing that goes on in our community and wish the GACG the very best.